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2021 Japan Job Industry Report – Commentary Pt. 2: Per industry demand and limitations

This article is continued from part 1 – where I took a look at what the 2021 Japan Job Industry Report (read it yourself by registering) published by Japan Switch and BFF Tokyo  means for job-hunters. In the last article I covered how the numbers do note how limited the English-facing job boards are in Japan but also how even then the strong effects that a person’s Japanese ability has on the number and pay of the jobs that apply to them.

In this article I will go into more about what the article suggests about demand by job-scope in Japan. I will also add some points cautioning readers from reading too literally about the data in the report.

Point 4: Demand by Job Scope

Original image from the full report

I’ve covered things by location but what about job scope? This is the breakdown of the number of full-time jobs which were listed by job scope (the report uses the word “industry” but based on the items, the idea is probably closer to job-scope).

  1. IT: 3213
  2. Manufacturing: 1484
  3. Sales: 1285
  4. Teaching: 532
  5. Marketing: 442
  6. Translation: 150
  7. Hotel: 100
  8. Nursing: 70
  9. Restaurant: 58

The data is pretty much self-explanatory – and probably gives a good idea as to where you may want to up-skill or re-skill if you want to improve your job chances. That being said though I do want to make a few comments.

People are desperate for IT talent

As you can see the biggest number of job posts are for IT talent, most probably for engineers. This mirrors the overall market trends where (according to Doda, July 2021 figures), for each IT technician that is job-hunting there are 9.86 open jobs – the highest among all job scopes surveyed. In addition to that, companies are far more likely to consider talent which does not speak fluent Japanese for IT roles (see first article for more).

This is also why coding bootcamps (see Le Wagon and Code Chrysalis) have generally been able to place their graduates into jobs quite smoothly into jobs despite many of their graduates not speaking fluent Japanese and only having a few months of training.

Ie. if you have saved and can afford the tuition and want to get out of your current job / field, do consider signing up for the above bootcamps. Coding is painful but can be very rewarding.

Sales and Marketing – but what kind?

The sales and marketing jobs above need a bit of explanation too. Given that the jobs are mainly stated to be aimed at English natives (with or without strong Japanese), these jobs are likely to involve some sort of overseas / foreign element. This could be for example overseas sales, international E-Commerce marketing or English-medium content writing for foreigners in Japan.

This does not excuse you from having strong Japanese though. For both sales and marketing the vast majority of jobs posted with information about the required Japanese level (including “No Japanese needed”) demanded at least an N2, with jobs requiring N3 and below occupying less than 10% of the jobs posted.

Translation

Given the amount of Engrish in Japan, the low number of translation jobs may shock you. Only 150 when there’s so much outright wrong and awkward English in Japan?

The issue here is that these are translation jobs. The problem in Japan – and which I have many frustrations with – translation is not usually seen as a “job” but an auxilliary skill that sales / marketing / administrative people have. This is also why much of the English translations that you see – even when “correctly” translated by a native speaker – are very awkward texts because they are not translation professionals.

The jobs here are probably for translation agencies or the few companies which actually do see the value in having a proper in-house translator / interpreter. That being said though, the fact that 1/3 of the job posts only demanded an N3 or an N2 does make me pause – except where the job is handling a specific subject matter (in which case subject vocabulary is more important than the difference between an N2 and an N1) – I do think that an N1 should be the standard that professional translators should have to do a proper job.

Limitation 1: Not everything is on a job board

That’s all for the points I want to make but I do want to make a few warnings about taking this data too literally – because these may too affect your job hunting.

Let’s start first by talking about the simple fact that not all jobs are on job boards. In fact there are probably two elements to this:

The more specialized the job, the greater reliance on other recruitment channels

Like informal networks

The first is that for some specialized industries or job-scopes, companies would rely greater on recruitment agents (who actively hunt applicants) than placing jobs on job boards and hope that people apply.

The case in point here is nursing – with 70% of nursing facilities facing chronic labor shortages, it is inconcievable that there are only 80 open jobs in the field. Of course most homes may be thinking of Japanese applicants when it comes to hiring but the point stands – job boards only capture a certain segment of all the jobs out there.

In particular, these are some key patterns where employers may actually not place their jobs on open, catch-all kinds of job portals.

  • Position is more senior – not many qualified people would come in through a job board anyway and you’d want to poach people who aren’t necessarily actively looking. Agents are likely to be more successful.
  • Industry is rather specialized – nursing, medical staff or even academia for example. They probably have their own recruitment channels.
  • Position requires a rare language skill / nationality – same point above.
  • Industry is more conservative – in which case hiring through networks becomes stronger.

Generally, the more divergent the job-scope / industry from the “normal job market”, the less likely you will see their jobs on the job boards.

There are significant numbers of employers which will not pay to place a job ad

The other side of things is that many employers either cannot afford to or do not want to pay the cost of placing a job ad.

For your reference, the costs of these can be very heavy. To give an example from the job boards listed in the report, having a standard account (which only allows for the posting of one job) on CareerCross apparently costs 215,000 yen per month. For an example of a major board outside of those featured, for each successful hire from BizReach, the hiring company owes BizReach 15% of the employee’s annual salary – so a 5 million annual salary hire would cost the company 750,000 yen.

As you can imagine these are not costs which employers will want to pay lightly. Therefore the jobs you see on job-boards are from a subset of companies which can pay and are so in urgent need of people that they will want to pay to post their jobs on these platforms.

There are other companies which cannot pay but are in urgent need of people (eg. startups) or who would like more people but won’t pay for the platform fees. These are not necessarily bad companies to work for and if anything you applying for them would mean you face much less competition – ie. it would be easier for you to get a job.

In the end the point that I’m trying to make from the above though is that if the jobs on the job-boards don’t really seem like good (or enough of) choices, you really have to look at other places too. Maybe media or platforms more specific to your field, maybe recruiters or maybe trawling company recruitment websites and directly sending in your information.

Limitation 2: COVID-19

Do note that the timing of the survey is telling. This is data from March – May 2021 – the lull between the 3rd and 4th waves of COVID-19 in Japan. This does explain the rather low amount of part-time, hotel and restaurant jobs that we see in hiring.

More generally though, this has had a chilling effect even on sales and marketing jobs given that many of the companies which hire for such roles are outbound business roles too – think marketing for tourism for example. With no tourists being able to enter the amount of demand for these roles may have shrunk considerably.

Curiously though, this may have led to an increase in the number of job posts for teaching in Japan – for the simple reasons that eikaiwas have not been able to bring new foreigners into Japan due to the stoppage of the issuing of visas and the large numbers of foreigners who have left Japan during the pandemic. Given this there may have been an uptick in attempts to hire for foreigners already within Japan to compensate.

That’s all for now!

That’s all I have to say regarding the data from the report! To be clear, when I say “limitations” this is not to criticize the report. The fact is that when we do surveys and ground research, there needs to be targeting for what exactly we are researching or else the researcher will end up with too many variations of data that are uncomparable.

This collation of close to 8000 data points is unprecedented and is extremely valuable for a data geek like me and hats off to the team behind the report! Hopefully the commentary and the original report will be of help to you!

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